BOUNCE: Concordia overcomes cold start, beats Dwenger in Class 3A Sectional opener

If we wondered what high school basketball would be like after the most recent polar vortex attack, it didn’t take long to get an answer: out of rhythm.

Part of the schedule reshuffle, Concordia and Bishop Dwenger girls ended up playing their Class 3A sectional game Friday at 5 p.m. as the first part of a triple header in that Sectional, with the Cadets coming out on top, 56-29, to advance to Saturday’s semifinal opposite Woodlan.

It took six minutes and seven seconds for either team to hit a field goal.

Up until then, Concordia had all of the games points (4), all coming on free throws. Once the Cadets got a little more warm, it showed why they are still the favorites win this Sectional again this season. That first made field goal came on a three pointer from Elle Fritcha at the end of a Concordia 3-on-2 fast break with CC Calloway streaking up the middle and drawing the defense in on her.

Concordia senior Carissa Garcia comes around a screen from teammate Nautica Rogers during the first half of Friday, February 1’s Class 3A Sectional game.

The 4-0 game became a 9-2 game in just 34 seconds when Bishop Dwenger’s 34 and Concordia’s Carissa Garcia exchanged layups.

Garcia had seven points at the end of one and only added one more point in the first half: a free throw with just 0.8 seconds left before the break. But this is not something that rattled the Cadets anymore. Garcia has been constantly hounded and forced into uncomfortable positions all season long. What makes Concordia a favorite in this sectional and a contender in a potential Regional round is how much growth continues to show up around her.

Rogers had a pretty quiet, but important first half. Throughout the season, she has established herself as one of the area’s top post players with mostly big and bold statements. Concordia has come to rely on her almost as much, if not equal to how they lean on Garcia. When all else fails, their two seniors are always able to compliment each other. Judging solely by the scoreboard at halftime of Friday’s game, 28-16 in favor of the Cadets, this will continue to be true. The seniors had 17 of those Cadet points.

Around them remains a young but now much more tested group of just two juniors, seven sophomores and a freshman on the Sectional roster. But that group is getting there. Sophomores Calloway, Chastity Craig and Meg Barkley are far more confident and less exposable than they were the first time Bounce saw them this season. Heck, they are even better than they were the last time I saw them less than a month ago.

Concordia sophomore CC Calloway handles the ball during a February 1 Class 3A Sectional game against Bishop Dwenger.

Calloway could be their next star even with Craig and her sister Chanteese expecting to be a pretty dominant duo inside next year. Chanteese Craig was a stellar freshman a year ago but has missed this entire season injured. But I digress. Calloway is better every game, every trip up the court. She read the floor well on Friday night and played lead at times in an offense predicated on a speedy point guard getting out on the break.

With 4:10 left in the third quarter, Calloway was able to get herself an open look against the Saints press when she read the open floor. Garcia pushes the ball ahead to the left side to Rogers just by mid-court and Calloway went steadily up the right side, quietly enough to Lee the Bishop Dwenger defense away and but loudly enough for Rogers to find her for the open lay in. It extended Concordia’s already comfortable lead to 33-21.

The Cadets made some second half mistakes, any young team would. Some of those were cancelled out by Dwenger’s own young mistakes. At the two minute mark of the half, the Saints looked to pull momentum their way when Rogers was called for a charge to finish off a quarter of heavy trips with a lot of physicality from both teams.

That is where Garcia thrives, in shutting down opposing momentum. She takes the ball and she goes and if you’ve seen Concordia any time in the last three seasons, I am not telling you anything you don’t already know. Garcia scored seven points in the third, nearly matching her first half total. And the girl is good. There should be no question why she’s been covered in awards and praise, including from yours truly. When the going got tough in stretches of the second half Friday night, Garcia simply was not going to even consider the idea that her high school career was over.

After trailing 38-24 after three quarters, Bishop Dwenger was never able to get much closer and never within 10 points. Concordia went up 20 points, 46-26, with 4:25 when Garcia buries one of her trademark three pointers right in front of the Cadet bench. They pretty much sailed from there into Saturday’s semifinal.

That says more about Concordia than their opponents and I’m sure Woodlan’s entire team, watching from the stage at Concordia Lutheran High School, took notice.

They will be the next team to try to match up player for player. Like Bishop Dwenger, Woodlan is quite young too. Do they have the confidence to match Calloway and other young Cadet players? More importantly, do they have an answer for both Garcia and Craig?

Garcia ended the game with a game high 24 points, followed by 13 points from Rogers. Molly Ream lead Bishop Dwenger with seven points.

These opinions represent those of Bounce and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Bounce on Twitter at Bounce_OTH

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